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Some thoughts on women, dragons, and realism or the lack thereof

So this post went up on the Mary Sue this week, referencing a recent interview George R.R. Martin has given, talking about the sexual violence against women in Game of Thrones. Unsurprisingly, the Mary Sue is not impressed.

Me–well. There are reasons I have avoided getting into watching the show, or reading past book 1 of the series, and first and foremost among those reasons is all of the sexual violence against the women in the cast. But that’s my reaction as a reader.

As a writer, I’m not going to go saying what another author should and should not write. Particularly authors who are way more experienced at their craft than I am. Every author has sovereignty over his or her creations, and is the final authority over what is and is not realistic in the world that he or she has made.

Likewise, my sovereignty is over the worlds I have made–the Warder universe and the world of Rebels of Adalonia thus far, with others to come. And for me, equating realism with women getting raped is a specious argument. I’m writing elves and magic. I’m writing healer girls who are so ridiculously powerful that they can ward off ancient beings with near-godlike abilities. I’m writing fiddle-playing mages who can take on the vengeful spirits of dead Unseelie in dragon form. And, yeah, I’m writing children who are the offspring of a mating between a shapeshifting nogitsune mother and a dragon father, children who are capable of destroying cities with their power. You could make a very strong argument that realism isn’t exactly high on my agenda.

Yet that too is specious. I’m not the most experienced writer in the world, to be sure. But I’ve read a whole hell of a lot of books, a lot more than I’ve written to date. And from both my reader and writer perspectives, it seems to me that a book’s job is to make me believe in its world. Realism in a story is important. Detail in description, coherence of narrative structure, consistency of worldbuilding, etc.–all of these things are critical to building that realism.

But at the end of the day, and at the end (not to mention the beginning and the middle) of the story, it’s the writer’s job to decide what realism means in the story they’re trying to tell.

And for me, that means stories where my female characters do not have to live in fear of being raped. Or, for that matter, my male characters. I’m just not going to go there. Period.

You could argue that I am therefore sacrificing true realism, particularly in the Rebels of Adalonia universe, where Faanshi starts off the story as a slave. It’d absolutely be plausible for her to have been sexually abused by her master. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s probable that that kind of abuse has happened to elven slaves in the history of Adalonia.

But there’s a difference between “it would be plausible” and “I should therefore include that in my story”. Particularly when it involves sexual abuse as a plot point.

Because while I want to believe in the realism of any story I’m reading (or writing), I also want to believe in the realism of a world where women don’t have to live in fear of rape. We don’t live in that world right now. I would really like us to, though I don’t pretend to know how we can get there. Yet if there’s anything I’ve learned in all the years I’ve read books, watched movies or TV, and listened to music, it’s that the real and actual world we live in can be shaped by the stories we choose to tell.

So I choose to tell stories where no character has to undergo sexual abuse.

I don’t pretend to have anything remotely resembling the reach of Mr. Martin with my work, or to have any real goal with writing novels above and beyond “because I want to tell stories, and hopefully people will want to read them, and have fun doing so”. But I know far, far too many people who have suffered sexual abuse in real life, and for them and others like them, I want to provide some respite from that. And if I ever manage to nudge our real-life world closer to being abuse-free, then y’know what?

That’d be pretty freggin’ awesome.

Rebels of Adalonia

On further works in the world of Rebels of Adalonia

I have just been asked whether I will be writing more in the world of the Rebels of Adalonia trilogy, now that Victory of the Hawk is about to drop. The answer to this question is: maybe.

If you look on my In Progress page, you’ll see that one of the titles there is Mirror’s Gate. This story is actually set in the same world as the Rebels books, only in a different country–specifically, Vreyland, which is very passingly mentioned in Vengeance of the Hunter and which will also be passingly mentioned in Victory of the Hawk. Vreyland, unlike Adalonia, is a country where elves are on equal social footing with humans. Also, magic is not only not forbidden in Vreyland, it’s actively part of the society there.

Alert readers who look at the summary for Mirror’s Gate will note that I mention the sorcerer Alexsandr there. Please to note that Aleksandr is a human sorcerer, not an elven one. Yes, there are conclusions about the worldbuilding to be drawn here, and these are conclusions I would like to explore further. I’ve got a little over two chapters of this story written so far, and I’d like to do more.

However, I’m not entirely done with Adalonia either. There are at least two potential paths of story exploration I can do after the Rebels trilogy is done. One path will explore a visit to Tantiulo, and the other will be exploring what happens in Adalonia after the social, political, and religious upheaval of this story reaches its peak in Victory of the Hawk. There will be hints laid down at the end of Victory about both of these paths. They could be explored in separate novels OR the same novel; I don’t know yet. But they are ideas I will be looking into developing.

Carina only offered to do this trilogy, though, so how further works in this universe will be explored is so far an undetermined question. I may try to query them formally, or I may look into self-pubbing them. I don’t know yet.

Either way, if folks out there would be interested in more works in this universe, or if you have questions about the worldbuilding you’d like to see answered, do let me know!

Rebels of Adalonia

For those of you who have read Valor and Vengeance

I need to do a post on Here Be Magic tomorrow, so I’d like to do a roundup of random interesting worldbuilding trivia about the setting of Valor of the Healer and Vengeance of the Hunter!

So if you’ve read either or both of the books, and you have questions about any aspect of the world, drop me a comment and I’ll include it in the post that’ll go up tomorrow on the Here Be Magic blog!

Rebels of Adalonia

Some notes on the setting of the Rebels of Adalonia books

I have been asked by a coworker of mine (who also happens to be a writer!) if I have a map available of Adalonia, the country where Valor of the Healer and Vengeance of the Hunter are set. Short form answer: no. The only map of the country exists in my brain. I’d draw one, except I’m not that much of an artist!

However, I’ll talk a bit about the various important places in the setting, and my mental spatial sense of where everything is.

Adalonia: The main setting of the story. In general it’s situated in my brain on a very large peninsula of the continent it’s on, somewhat roughly analogous to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe.

Nirrivy: A currently non-existent country that was swallowed up by Adalonia a couple hundred years before the story. The territory formerly occupied by Nirrivy is now Adalonia’s western provinces.

Kilmerry Province: The largest of the western provinces that formerly made up Nirrivy. Kilmerry is where most of the action in the story takes place, although I’ll be moving a lot of the action eastward in Victory of the Hawk.

Shalridan: The capital city of Kilmerry Province and the former capital of Nirrivy. It’s on Kilmerry’s western coast and has open access to the ocean.

Camden: Smaller than Shalridan, but still large enough to be fairly important, Camden is where the Duke of Shalridan’s family have their primary residence. It’s 2-3 days ride roughly east of Shalridan, depending on how fast you’re moving.

Bremany: The estate of Kestar Vaarsen’s family and its attendant village. About a day and a half to two days’ ride roughly northeast-ish of Camden.

Arlitham: A small village east of Bremany, close to the eastern border of Kilmerry Province.

Dolmerrath: The last stronghold of the elves anywhere in Adalonia, situated pretty much as far northwest in Kilmerry Province as you can get before you hit water. Roughly three days’ ride north of Shalridan, two if you’re pushing it, and you can get up there faster if you go by boat.

Tantiulo: The other major country mentioned in the story, from which several of the characters in the cast hail. Tantiulo is on a continent south of the one that contains Adalonia and is only reachable by ocean voyage, there’s no overland route between the two countries. Relations between the two have been strained ever since the war that took place roughly twenty years before the start of Valor of the Healer.

Other things I know about the setting:

1) Elisiya, the long-lost homeland of the elves, was destroyed by Adalonia. Its territory is currently considered an Adalonian colony.

2) Vreyland, another country that exists in this world and which is passingly mentioned in Vengeance of the Hunter, will eventually be showing up in another book I have in progress, currently called Mirror’s Gate. Vreyland is a considerable distance to the northeast from Adalonia, and has a colder and harsher climate. When Adalonia wiped out Elisiya, quite a few of the elves fled in that direction rather than fleeing west, and Vreyland now has a considerable elven population. I will be referencing this in Victory of the Hawk.

And here’s a fun side note: Vreyland also has human mages. (Of course, if you’re following the trilogy, you know Tantiulo has at least one. >:D )

3) The world in general, at least in Adalonic, is called Khilann. There are other names for it in Tantiu, Elvish, and the other languages in play in the setting, but Khilann is how I think of it.

If anybody ever wants to draw me a map of the world of Khilann, I will totally make it available here on my site. And if anybody wants to know anything about what I know about the geography of the world, you have but to ask!